High School Sports

UM commit’s big play highlights American Heritage cakewalk to state title

American Heritage Patriots defensive tackle Nesta Silvera (99) carries the championship trophy after the game. Silvera recovered a Baker County fumble for a touchdown during the that game as in Class 5A State High School Football Championship at Camping World Stadium in Orlando on Friday, December 8, 2017.
American Heritage Patriots defensive tackle Nesta Silvera (99) carries the championship trophy after the game. Silvera recovered a Baker County fumble for a touchdown during the that game as in Class 5A State High School Football Championship at Camping World Stadium in Orlando on Friday, December 8, 2017. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Nesta Silvera might have been a little out of breath Friday afternoon when he leaped into the end zone.

The 6-2, 300-pound defensive tackle and University of Miami commitment rarely gets the chance to run more than half the distance of the field for a touchdown.

But after that and several other big plays catapulted Plantation American Heritage to a 44-15 win over Baker County and the Class 5A state championship, Silvera had plenty of energy to express how he truly felt about his team.

“We’re the best in the damn country,” Silvera shouted as he celebrated with his teammates after the game. “We’re the best at everything.”

With American Heritage well on its way to the comfortable victory, Silvera picked up a fumble after a bad handoff exchange and rumbled 57 yards for a touchdown with 4:52 left in the second quarter.

Silvera, who also had a tackle and Heritage’s lone sack, jumped over the goal line after being escorted by several teammates to the end zone.

“That ball was mine,” Silvera said. “I’m really a fullback at heart. I’m an athlete.”

Heritage (13-0), ranked No. 5 in the nation, won’t leapfrog all four teams ahead of them in the poll which includes an IMG Academy team that already finished its season.

But Silvera’s boast about his team deserves some consideration.

American Heritage won its 27th consecutive game and became the first Broward County team to win back-to-back state titles while going undefeated.

The Patriots are also only the second school from Broward to win four titles in five years, joining St. Thomas Aquinas (2012, 2014-2016). Heritage also now has the second-most state titles among Broward teams behind Aquinas’ 10 championships.

Heritage will need to rely on a younger core of players next season as it graduates 19 of its 22 starters overall.

“It’s a special time for Heritage football,” American Heritage coach Pat Surtain said. “I didn’t do alone, it was the kids. And I have the best coaching staff in the country. It’s a joint effort. One man don’t make this train go.”

Senior quarterback Cam Smith was a major catalyst on offense for Heritage especially during the postseason in the Patriots’ most dramatic win over rival Cardinal Gibbons in triple overtime in the regional finals.

Smith hit a pair of open receivers in the first half for touchdown passes and ran in a pair of 1-yard quarterback sneaks, the second of which ended any remote chance Baker County (13-2) had of getting back in the game after cutting Heritage’s second-half lead to 37-15.

On both touchdowns, Heritage displayed its marked advantage in skill-position talent over Baker County.

Senior Joshua Alexander came free and left his coverage several yards behind as he caught a 39-yard touchdown pass with 9:53 left in the second quarter.

Senior Anthony Schwartz, who was at one point the nation’s fastest sprinter in track a year ago, showed off that speed twice. Much like Alexander, Schwartz came free for a 43-yard touchdown catch on a throw from Smith with 3:13 left in the first half. Less than two minutes later, Schwartz swept around the end untouched for a 37-yard touchdown run.

“Our offense was clicking on all cylinders,” Surtain said. “We’ve been talking about playing that perfect game all year and we got pretty close to it [Friday].”

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